Some of Barack Obama's foreign policy advisors have caused controversy. In a bid to assuage the concerns of millions of Americans regarding his foreign policy plans, the campaign has been engaged in a bit of a shell game, spinning the roles of various advisers. More significantly, the campaign has been adding to its roster of "experts". The latest headliner to come on board is Daniel Kurtzer, former American Ambassador to Egypt (1997-2001) and Israel (2001-2005). As an ex-ambassador to Israel, perhaps it is felt his presence will reassure friends of Israel who vote. However, his views -- once they become more widely known -- may create further unease.
Ambassador Kurtzer has signed onto the campaign, appears before Jewish audiences to vouch for his candidate, and provides "foreign policy advice" regarding the Middle East to the campaign. Presumably, he will be rewarded with a top foreign policy post if Barack Obama becomes President. That is how Washington works. But what type of policies would Kurtzer work toward? What does he believe is the way forward? He does have a record, and it may displease many supporters of the American-Israel relationship.
Daniel Kurtzer earned his Ph.D. from Columbia University. In his dissertation he blamed the Israeli response to terror attacks for "the radicalization of those Palestinians to violence". He does not characterize the perpetrators as terrorists but as "guerillas". As Joseph Farah has written, Kurtzer accepts a false premise: that the Palestinian problem is the core of the conflict in the Middle East (see more on this concept below). Furthermore, writes Farah,
Probably more than any other State Department official, Kurtzer has been instrumental in promoting the goals of the Palestinians and in raising their grievances to the center of the U.S. policymaking agenda. It was Kurtzer who, as a speechwriter for former Secretary of State James Baker, coined the term "land for peace." Kurtzer has never been a popular figure in Israel. Former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir referred to Kurtzer and two colleagues as "Baker's little Jews."
Kurtzer was also a key figure in the decisions that led to the recognition of the Palestinian Liberation Organization and Yasser Arafat as the legitimate and sole representative of the Palestinian people. A decision that has brought about much violence and despair and is a source of many of the problems that that still roil the region.
Fortunately, Kurtzer has provided a contemporary guide to his views in a recently-published slim volume on the history of Middle East policy making since the end of the Cold War, Negotiating Arab-Israeli Peace: American Leadership in the Middle East (co-written with Scott Lasensky, who has also signed onto the Obama campaign). The book looks backward to examine the performance of previous Presidents, and is also proscriptive, concluding with a list of proposals that Kurtzer and Lasensky advocate as guidelines for the future. In essence, a new Road Map for the next President.
Broadly, the authors are laudatory about only one President: George H.W. Bush, crediting him for having the `clearest sense of strategy" that was "pursued in a highly disciplined, effective and committed manner". The book also offers praise for Secretary of State James Baker.
This alone might create unease. Both these leaders had noticeably contentious relationships with Israel and with American supporters of Israel. Former President Bush notably threatened to prohibit loan guarantees to Israel to express his displeasure regarding Israel's policies on settlements. Bush and Baker also compelled Israel to negotiate and empower Yasser Arafat, who was a beaten and defeated figure in the wake of his Lebanon debacle. Both Bush and Baker also complained about the efforts of pro-Israel Americans to register their views with Congressmen.
Conversely, Kurtzer and Lasensky are highly critical of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush: two president who, despite their political differences, are very popular with supporters of the American-Israel relationship. They fault Clinton for lack of discipline and lack of strategic foresight. Bush, in turn, is faulted for lack of involvement and, similar to Clinton, lack of strategic vision (this despite the fact that he was the first American President to commit to the establishment of a Palestinian state and who saw democratization, as rocky as it may be in its establishment, as a key to future Middle East peace).
They are critical of Bush 43 for being too attentive to Israeli domestic politics and not attentive enough to the Palestinian leaders' political constraints. In their view, Bush 43
proved overly deferential to the stated political problems of the Israeli government while tending to turn a blind eye towards domestic constraints on the Arab side. (page 34).
Their view of the posture that America should take in the Middle East may generate some unease as well. At various points in the book, Kurtzer and Lasensky take American policymakers to task for not trying to balance what they describe as "asymmetries" between the relative power of the Palestinians and Israelis. In their view, America should apparently apply more pressure toward Israel in order to counter perceived Israeli strength vis-…-vis the Palestinians, and thereby facilitate peace-making efforts. Presumably this would be accomplished by compelling Israeli acquiescence to American policy
They are often critical toward Clinton and Bush 43 for being too sensitive toward political dynamics in Israel and too receptive to arguments made by the Israelis (and the Palestinians) that their own political difficulties prevent them from following American plans. Repeatedly, they emphasize that American policy towards the region should be made in Washington. Of course, it should be but the repetition of this point throughout the book might create some discomfort. They also hold that solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the key to restoring peace throughout the region. According to Kurtzer and Lasensky,
The perpetuation of the conflict increasingly bedevils our ability to build alliances for other critical challenges facing the region, such as the situations in Iran and Iraq. It also fuels instability and violent conflict in neighborhood arenas, such as Lebanon. Finally, the conflict complicates the campaign for social and political reform in Arab societies" (page 27).
Then, disconcertingly, the authors seek to tie attacks on America to the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict. When addressing the issues of militant Islam and the determination of some to attack America, they write,
The Arab-Israeli conflict has not been immune to it, and in some ways has incubated and stimulated it. (page 77).
Not only do many people take exception to this view (after all, it ignores Sunni-Shiite schisms, dynastic problems, militant Islam and the history of jihad), but it seems to put the onus on Israel to resolve the conflict with the Palestinians that would miraculously solve the problems that beset the region and the world. The authors rely on the Iraq Study Group for the view that
reviving the peace process should be part of an overall strategy to revive U.S. influence, bolster moderate forces in the region, and stabilize the situation in Iraq. (page 50).
As noted, the authors see an asymmetry between the powers of Israel and the Palestinians and call upon America to monitor and address key asymmetries. Then they look at the region as a whole and how the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has inflamed tensions in the Muslim world. Yet, paradoxically, they fail to see how Israel might view the issue of asymmetry: the Israelis are surrounded by oil rich nations with populations that dwarf their own, nations that are led by a mix of autocrats, theocrats, and dictators. That sort of asymmetry is not addressed by the authors but certainly bears upon the peace process.....
Questions have been raised about Barack Obama and his foreign policy views. Supporters point out that he has compiled a generally good voting record regarding the American-Israel relationship during his three years in the Senate. Nevertheless, he is relatively inexperienced and his record is a short one.
He will need to rely on the advice of his advisers -- the advisers who have come to cause him a variety of political problems over the last few months. By landing a former American Ambassador to Israel as one of his advisers, the campaign clearly hoped that such a high profile figure would help to defuse questions and soothe tensions. They might be mistaken once the voters become more aware of the views and policy proposals of Daniel Kurtzer.
Obama Claims he's greatest friend of Jews ever
Well...not quite. But if Obama is allowed to spout hyperbole, why not the rest of us?
Obama reminded the crowd that he'd denounced his church's praise of Farrakhan, saying, "I've been very clear about saying that was wrong. And nobody has spoken out more fiercely on the issue of anti- Semitism than I have."
Really? No one? Elie Wiesel? Simon Wiesenthal? Alan Dershowitz? Obama, as Ed Morrissey points out, is getting into the nasty habit of stretching the truth once he gets off script:
First off, when has Obama spoken out at all against anti-Semitism outside of generic "hope and change" rhetoric about the tone and tenor of politics? He hasn't been an activist for anti-Semitism even in his own church. He claims he didn't agree with Jeremiah Wright's honoring Farrakhan, but he didn't speak out against it until people pressed him for a reaction to it. How about when his church reprinted Hamas propaganda in its bulletins? Did his fierce opposition erupt in protest? Uh, no.
And now "nobody has spoken out more fiercely on the issue of anti-Semitism" than Obama? That's not just absurd, it insults the intelligence of everyone who heard it. Many people have spoken out eloquently on anti-Semitism on many more occasions than Barack Obama, which isn't a difficult threshold to meet.
Pretty soon, the Democratic primary is going to resemble one of those bars where patrons try to outdo each other in making up stories about their exploits. Between Hillary's Bosnia caper and Obama's assertion that he has stood up for the Jews, one might begin to wonder is it possible for either of them just to tell the truth about something.
Obama's Fancied the Terror Gang in Chicago-- Partied With Bombers & Former PLO Operative
Barack Obama, terrorist Bill Ayers and former PLO operative Rashid Khalidi were good friends and even partied together in Chicago.
Both terrorist Ayers and former PLO operative Khalidi have held fundraisers for Obama in the past. Rashid Khalidi and Barack Obama were close friends in Chicago. Rashid was also a former PLO operative who often spoke to reporters on behalf of Yasser Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization when he lived in Beirut. Tom Maguire posted on Rashid Khalidi yesterday and pointed out this report from the LA Times on Barack Obama's Palestinian allies:
CHICAGO -- It was a celebration of Palestinian culture -- a night of music, dancing and a dash of politics. Local Arab Americans were bidding farewell to Rashid Khalidi, an internationally known scholar, critic of Israel and advocate for Palestinian rights, who was leaving town for a job in New York.
A special tribute came from Khalidi's friend and frequent dinner companion, the young state Sen. Barack Obama. Speaking to the crowd, Obama reminisced about meals prepared by Khalidi's wife, Mona, and conversations that had challenged his thinking.
His many talks with the Khalidis, Obama said, had been "consistent reminders to me of my own blind spots and my own biases... It's for that reason that I'm hoping that, for many years to come, we continue that conversation -- a conversation that is necessary not just around Mona and Rashid's dinner table," but around "this entire world."
...While teaching at the University of Chicago, Khalidi and his wife lived in the Hyde Park neighborhood near the Obamas. The families became friends and dinner companions.
In 2000, the Khalidis held a fundraiser for Obama's unsuccessful congressional bid. The next year, a social service group whose board was headed by Mona Khalidi received a $40,000 grant from a local charity, the Woods Fund of Chicago, when Obama served on the fund's board of directors.
At Khalidi's going-away party in 2003, the scholar lavished praise on Obama, telling the mostly Palestinian American crowd that the state senator deserved their help in winning a U.S. Senate seat. "You will not have a better senator under any circumstances," Khalidi said.
The event was videotaped, and a copy of the tape was obtained by The Times.
Though Khalidi has seen little of Sen. Obama in recent years, Michelle Obama attended a party several months ago celebrating the marriage of the Khalidis' daughter.
Columbia University got a twofer when they hired Rashid Khalidi-- Both Rashid and his wife Mona were strong Palestinian sympathizers. And... Guess who else was at the Khalidi going away party in Chi-town? Campus Watch reported:
In bringing professor Khalidi to Morningside Heights from the University of Chicago, Columbia also got itself a twofer of Palestinian activism and advocacy. Mr. Khalidi's wife, Mona, who also served in Beirut as chief editor of the English section of the WAFA press agency, was hired as dean of foreign students at Columbia's SIPA, working under Dean Anderson. In Chicago, the Khalidis founded the Arab American Action Network, and Mona Khalidi served as its president.
A big farewell dinner was held in their honor by AAAN with a commemorative book filled with testimonials from their friends and political allies. These included the left wing anti-war group Not In My Name, the Electronic Intifada, and the ex-Weatherman domestic terrorists Bernadine Dohrn and Bill Ayers. (There were also testimonials from then-state Senator Barack Obama and the mayor of Chicago.)
As far as his connections with Obama, Khalidi has not been forthright in recent interviews, via the Jewish Press:
Concerning Obama's role in funding AAAN, Khalidi claimed he "never heard of the Woods Fund until it popped up on a bunch of blogs a few months ago." He terminated the interview when pressed further about his links with Obama. Contacted by phone, Mona Khalidi refused to answer questions about AAAN's involvement with Obama.
World Net Daily reported that as director of the Woods Fund board in Chicago Barack Obama, along with William Ayers, granted Khalidi's controversial anti-Israel group the Arab American Action Network, or AAAN, $40,000 in 2001 and $35,000 in 2002.
The next Rev. Wright
Bill Ayers: "I don't regret setting bombs. I feel we didn't do enough." Republicans are reviewing Democratic Sen. Barack Obama's friendship with fellow member of the radical chic in Chicago, Bill Ayers, who said in a book, "Fugitive Days," that he participated in the bombings of New York City Police Headquarters in 1970, of the Capitol building in 1971, and the Pentagon in 1972. Far from being repentant, Ayers brazenly told the New York Times: "I don't regret setting bombs. I feel we didn't do enough." The interview was published on Sept. 11, 2001.
Ayers lived on the lam for about 7 years before turning himself in and instead of going to prison, Ayers landed a cushy job teaching at the University of Chicago. The radical chic take care of their own.
When Obama landed in Chicago, he did not just join the influential Trinity United Church of Christ, headed by Rev. Jeremiah Wright, a former Marine, former Muslim and former black nationalist. Obama also moved into the same circles that Ayers was well-established in, Ben Smith reported.
"But Obama's relationship with Ayers is an especially vivid milepost on his rise, in record time, from a local official who unabashedly reflected a very liberal district to the leader of national movement based largely on the claim that he can transcend ideological divides," wrote Smith. Questions about what fueled Obama's meteoric rise - Wright, Ayers, Emil Jones and Tony Rezko - may be his downfall. Karl Rove said Obama's friendship with Ayers is a potential opening for Republicans this fall
Media idolatory of Obama? Sure. Now we even get idolatory of his mother!
I am not going to reproduce it all as I don't want to make anybody ill
Each of us lives a life of contradictory truths. We are not one thing or another. Barack Obama's mother was at least a dozen things. S. Ann Soetoro was a teen mother who later got a Ph.D. in anthropology; a white woman from the Midwest who was more comfortable in Indonesia; a natural-born mother obsessed with her work; a romantic pragmatist, if such a thing is possible.
"When I think about my mother," Obama told me recently, "I think that there was a certain combination of being very grounded in who she was, what she believed in. But also a certain recklessness. I think she was always searching for something. She wasn't comfortable seeing her life confined to a certain box."
Obama's mother was a dreamer. She made risky bets that paid off only some of the time, choices that her children had to live with. She fell in love - twice - with fellow students from distant countries she knew nothing about. Both marriages failed, and she leaned on her parents and friends to help raise her two children.
"She cried a lot," says her daughter Maya Soetoro-Ng, "if she saw animals being treated cruelly or children in the news or a sad movie - or if she felt like she wasn't being understood in a conversation." And yet she was fearless, says Soetoro-Ng. "She was very capable. She went out on the back of a motorcycle and did rigorous fieldwork. Her research was responsible and penetrating. She saw the heart of a problem, and she knew whom to hold accountable."
Today Obama is partly a product of what his mother was not. Whereas she swept her children off to unfamiliar lands and even lived apart from her son when he was a teenager, Obama has tried to ground his children in the Midwest. "We've created stability for our kids in a way that my mom didn't do for us," he says. "My choosing to put down roots in Chicago and marry a woman who is very rooted in one place probably indicates a desire for stability that maybe I was missing."
Ironically, the person who mattered most in Obama's life is the one we know the least about - maybe because being partly African in America is still seen as being simply black and color is still a preoccupation above almost all else. There is not enough room in the conversation for the rest of a man's story.
But Obama is his mother's son. In his wide-open rhetoric about what can be instead of what was, you see a hint of his mother's credulity. When Obama gets donations from people who have never believed in politics before, they're responding to his ability - passed down from his mother - to make a powerful argument (that happens to be very liberal) without using a trace of ideology. On a good day, when he figures out how to move a crowd of thousands of people very different from himself, it has something to do with having had a parent who gazed at different cultures the way other people study gems.
It turns out that Obama's nascent career peddling hope is a family business. He inherited it. And while it is true that he has not been profoundly tested, he was raised by someone who was.
In most elections, the deceased mother of a candidate in the primaries is not the subject of a magazine profile. But Ann Soetoro was not like most mothers.
More nausea here. Dave at Ace is having difficulty holding down his breakfast too.
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